The Batch Lady: Healthy Family Favourites by Suzanne Mulholland – Review
By Gail Schuster
Suzanne Mulholland describes herself as, ‘a time saving guru and family-cooking expert’. She lives on a farm near Ettrickbridge, in the Scottish Borders region of Scotland, and first came to people’s attention when she put her cooking method on the internet, after having shown friends how she batched cooked her family’s meals in advance. Now she has over 200,000 followers on Facebook, getting on for 55,000 on Instagram, her own YouTube channel and webpage. The Batch Lady – Healthy Family Favourites is her second cookbook; her first having gone into the Sunday Times Top 10 best sellers list.
The aims of Suzanne’s technique are simple; to save time, food waste and money, whilst keeping families well fed with healthy home cooking. However, we all must juggle, not just our time but people’s different appetites, dietary requirements and diaries! With this in mind, each recipe comes with two alternative serving suggestions; one of which is lighter, for those of us who are watching their waistline and one for those who need a bit more energy. Calories and sugar content per portion are helpfully provided for each dish. Each recipe also comes with cook and serve instructions as well as notes on freezing and cooking from frozen.
Another difference between this cookbook and others on my bookshelf is that there are some features titled, ‘Three Ways With…’ This is where Suzanne takes a basic recipe and then shows how it can be adapted to be presented in different ways. A particularly good example of this are her sweetcorn fritters where she suggests they could be served with bacon and fried eggs for breakfast, or two different lunches: avocado, crème fraiche, sriracha and coriander, or with poached eggs and tomato relish. This allows the cook to prepare several batches of the fritters and freeze some, whilst providing some fresh ideas on how to eat them. Suzanne doesn’t just batch cook by doubling up what she is making, something many home cooks have been doing for years, but instead gives instructions on how to make several dishes simultaneously.
In the book, there are ideas for three recipes which can be cooked together and doubled up at the same time. These sections are called, ‘3 for the Fridge, 3 for the Freezer.’ The menu I tried was a vegetarian one which consisted of butternut squash and coconut soup, a summery couscous salad and a vegetable and veggie sausage one-pan bake. For this the reader is provided with a shopping list, then a list of ingredients. The method starts off with one meal, in this case the soup, then whilst those ingredients are softening you prepare the first two stages of the salad. This continues as you move back and forward between them. Suzanne recommends making double amounts of each of these (8 portions of each one) should take you 45 minutes. I took longer than this indicative time, but I have now got a well-stocked freezer of homemade food. The final item of this trio surprised me a little as it is not cooked immediately. These resemble those ready meals in the supermarket, which are quite pricey to buy, where the ingredients are raw but assembled and then cooked later, either after freezing or being kept in the fridge. This is another novel approach.
To save time, the book suggests making use of ready prepared vegetables, such as chopped onions and jars of sauces. This may not be to everyone’s taste as they add expense and you may prefer to prepare everything yourself. However, this goes with the ethos of saving the busy person time in the kitchen and if you wish to prepare your own ingredients then that is personal choice. There are some useful ideas in the book, like cooking two dinners at once as well as doubling up and some handy time saving and storage tips. There will be another busy home cook looking at the author’s timesaving kitchen tips from now on.
‘The Batch Lady: Healthy Family Favourites’ by Suzanne Mulholland is published by HarperCollins, £20 hardback